A new study has moved researchers a step forward towards using specialised T cells from umbilical cord blood for treating blood cancers.
Gamma delta (γδ) T cells have a special form of the T cell receptor, and have already been tested for their action against a number of cancer cell types. Pre-clinical research has found that γδ T cells may improve disease-free survival in patients with leukaemia. These cells have also been found in certain cancers, where they are linked to a better prognosis.
However, researchers are not yet clear on the optimal source and procedures for expanding numbers of the cells to make them suitable for an anti-cancer treatment. γδ T cells derived from adult peripheral blood have shown poor efficiency.
So a team from Singapore General Hospital investigated using cord blood as a source for γδ T cells, growing cells from samples obtained from the Singapore Cord Blood Bank.
The researchers say the results of their tests “showed intrinsic cellular differences between major subtypes of human γδ T cells” and “highlighted key areas of consideration in optimising cell manufacturing processes”.
Results were published in the journal Science Advances. The researchers believe the ability to harness and enhance the action of γδ T cells could be used to treat solid and blood cancers.
The team plan to carry out a phase 1 clinical trial with leukaemia and lymphoma patients.
Lead researcher Dr Alice Cheung said: “Most initial efforts have been focused on exploring the use of gamma delta T-cells in adults as cancer treatment. Unfortunately, response rates in early clinical trials were generally low and treatment efficacies were sub-optimal.
“This was why we decided to turn our attention to umbilical cord blood instead.”
Co-author Professor Goh Yeow Tee added: “Umbilical cord blood-derived gamma delta cells are currently under-utilised, with the main concern that there may not be enough of these T-cells for clinical application, but our study has shown that it is potentially feasible.”
Source: Ng JWK, Tan KW, Guo DY, Lai JJH, Fan X, Poon Z, Lim TH, Lim AST, Lim TKH, Hwang WYK, Li S, Eaves CJ, Goh YT, Cheung AMS. (2023) “Cord blood–derived Vδ2+ and Vδ2− T cells acquire differential cell state compositions upon in vitro expansion.” Science Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adf3120
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